My firsts : The story of becoming a Jain

Why did I write my story here?

Well, it is not a very rare story.  These events of my life have inspired a few people to return to the values of Jainism. Hence, I thought why not write them in a single place? Be it taunts from friends, relatives, or office colleagues – everyone has faced these kinds of hardships in life. I am not different. But sometimes a story can give people the courage to fight these challenges.

Before you start, thank you for coming to my little blog and reading my story. Remember you are awesome no matter what!

. . .

The first baal shibir

“णमो अरिहंताणं,
णमो सिद्धाणं,
णमो आयरियाणं,
णमो उवज्झायाणं,
णमो लोए सव्व साहूणं ।
एसोपंचणमोक्कारो, सव्वपावप्पणासणो ।
मंगला णं च सव्वेसिं, पडमम हवई मंगलं ।”

It is said that this is the best manglacharan before starting any auspicious work in one’s life. I guess when my life was beginning to get holy with the presence of Jainism I learned this mantra.

A summer vacation at your maternal grandparents’ house is one of the best memories of our childhood. The same is the case with me. On a fine summer vacation in 2002, I was at my nani’s home – Enjoying my childhood days, playing in the garden making utensils with the clay and fetching water secretly from the well situated there. 

My nani was quite a spiritual person. Everything she did had something to do with her religion. Her home was always filled with religious books, magazines, frames, and the aroma of delicious food she made. There is a Jain temple two houses away from her place. It was her daily ritual to go for worship there at least twice a day. I would tag along sometimes in the morning, bow down, and run back home. I wasn’t keen on going to temples at that time.

After a few days, she introduced me to a special eight-day program and classes (Shibir) happening in the temple soon. This program included gifts, some nice snacks, and lots of other kids my age. It was quite a fun-sounding affair for me, so I agreed to be part of a class.

Eight days passed. I learned Namokar Mantra, Chattari Mangal, and some temple-going basics. The book must be “balbodh pathmala part 1” as far as I can remember vaguely. 

So, the shibir introduced me to something known as Jainism. 

Before this shibir, I was only “Divya” but now “suddhatm hai mera naam” has been inculcated in me.

Nani was happy with my new learnings, and I was happy with the small gifts. 

. . .

The first Pathshala

The summer vacation ended. I came back home. No signs of chanting the namokar mantra could be seen at this time.

In January 2003, after almost six months of shibir, my mom took me to a temple pratistha mahotsav known as Panchkalyanaka. It was grand. Nani also came to attend this event. A beautiful, three-story Jain temple was built near our home. It was hardly a two-minute walk.

One day, my mom introduced me to a girl of almost my age and asked me to go to pathshala with her in this temple. A new friend to play with and an opportunity to go outside the home were all a kid studying in third grade could ever ask for. So, I started going to pathshala with her daily.

Soon, my learning in the shibir proved to be helpful. After some months, I became so habitual of going to pathshala that I would cry if someday I missed the class.

Till now, I am just learning things and not applied them to my life nor have I decided to follow Jainism for a lifetime.

The first food fight with mom

In Pathshala, I learned about “Abhaksya” (non-eatables). Potatoes also came under the “Bahughat” category. 

In the same week, potato sabzi was prepared at home for dinner. As soon as I saw the vegetable, I asked my mother to give me something else. She denied saying it will go to waste and asked me to eat it for this once. But I was adamant about my decision. I denied and denied. 

In the end, I ended up not having dinner that evening. 

After this incident, my mother started making a separate vegetable for me and herself whenever potatoes were prepared for others. 

I could not remember why I did this or where the willpower came from in me to fight for something I had started believing in a few days before. But yes, this memory reminds me that my spirit to fight for my beliefs goes long back.

. . .

The first taunts from relatives

I might have won over my mother’s heart and given her some hope that her daughter is going to be a Jain soon. But it was not easy for my relatives to gulp these thoughts that their kid is on the line of converting their family religion. 

In all the family functions, there were taunts “You have become Jain.”

“You have forgotten our home values.”

“Why have you left eating potatoes at this age?”

“This is your mother’s fault. She is brain-washing you.”

“This will not work in our home.”

Some even forced me to eat potatoes. I may have been a scared kid, but I was no fool to abandon a practice I started on my own. They could not do anything more and at last, accepted the fact that their taunts can’t shake my belief. 

At this time, I have only started not eating potatoes, onion, or garlic. I am still not so firm about not eating at night or other root vegetables like carrots, radishes, etc.

. . .

The first excuse to friends

“Sorry, I can’t come to your birthday party. I have a headache.”, I explained to my friend on the landline call in a sad tone.

I wish there was someone who could have told me that friends need to be supportive of your choices. There was always a little scared voice in my head which would often frighten me with such negative thoughts:

“What will your friends say when they find out you don’t eat all this?”

“What if they laughed at you?”

“How will you explain to them?”

“What if they don’t wanna be your friend anymore after knowing all this?”

What and what ifs have wasted some precious moments of our life more often than any person or choice.

Sometimes I also had panipuri with potato filling due to this “log/friends kya kahenge” mentality.

This is just a memory for me today, but it is still a sad reality for some Jain people out there. Remember a real friend will always support you and your right choices no matter what. 

. . .

The first hostel days

In 2013, the school and the excuses were finally over. I had also made up my mind to be a Jain. My basic education in Jainism in pathshala had been completed, along with some future guidance.

Now, the time had come to choose a college and go for higher studies. After not so much research, I got admission in the CS department of an engineering college in Indore. 

The day we were in the college for admission, we saw an ad for a girls’ hostel nearby. After looking at the hostel rooms, papa thought it to be a good place for me to live. He asked me if I was happy with the place. But who was concerned about the rooms!! I was concerned about the smell of onion and garlic coming from the mess. 

As we moved into the waiting room of the hostel, I saw some Jain pictures. The warden/owner lady told us that they were Jain. For a second, I became so happy but alas! The happiness turned into sadness the moment I asked her about Jain food and she denied it. I was shocked at this newly learned culture where a Jain family eats the same non-Jain food made in the mess. 

She jokingly said, “You will also learn to eat non-Jain food once you are here.”.

I could not say anything to her or papa. I accepted my fate at that time. After finalizing the hostel and college, we came back to my hometown. Some days were still left for me to shift to Indore.

In those days, I made a firm decision that I won’t eat potato, onion, or garlic at any cost from now onwards.

The day when I had to leave came. My mom was in tears so was I. But then suddenly I said to her, “Expect me to come back in some days if I could not get Jain food. I won’t live there for long.”. 

Papa settled me in the hostel and left. As a student, I had no other option for food, so I was bound to go into the mess for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For 3-4 days, I would eat chapati with pickle or “jeeravan”(a masala with spices) and rice with sugar. My hostel warden noticed this. She came to me and said, “You will become thin and get sick if you won’t eat vegetables and pulses. Because you are a Jain and I am too, I allow you to cook your vegetable in the kitchen. We will also keep one bowl of boiled pulses for you separately.”.

This was a big relief for me. Though I had little or almost no experience in cooking, I would ask the cook aunty, and make my sabzi for my college tiffin and dinner too. Yes, it was hectic sometimes, but the cook aunty was helpful, and sometimes she would keep my sabzi chopped or make it if she had time. 

Fortunately, during the daslakshan festival, the family used to eat Jain food before sunset. Hence, a relief for me during those days.

I was so lucky that there was a Jain temple at a nearby distance of around 1.3 km from the hostel. 

After allowing me, the aunty would pitch to the Jain students that they serve Jain food too. This way 3-4 Jain students came to that hostel.

At this time, I have started avoiding eating food after sunset but I am not firm about it yet.

. . .

The first public Jain oath

The year I joined my college, my nani left us. She was a warrior and a great inspiration to me. 

On the 13th day after her demise, a Jain vidhaan (puja) was organized in the temple as per ritual. I was missing her badly. I wanted to carry her legacy forward. The puja had ended, and everyone was ready to go home. 

A thought crossed my mind and I took the mic in my hand. “I take an oath(niyaam) today in the presence of you all that I will marry only a Jain person otherwise I won’t marry ever.”, as I said these lines people stared at me for some moments.

My mother had already left till this oath happened. So, a relative told her the wishes of her daughter afterward. She was so concerned as to what her daughter had done in her absence. Her what-ifs questions attacked me but nothing could change this now. I had taken this decision in the presence of dev-shastra-guru in the temple.

I can proudly say that this was also one of the decisions of my life.

. . .

The first quora answer

In college last year, I came across this new platform known as “Quora”. Addictive. Full of knowledgeable people. Intellectual. It had everything that lured a person like me. 

I started reading for hours on this app. I would also read answers on the topic “Jainism”. 

One day, I thought why don’t I write an answer on Jainism. So, I wrote one simple and basic answer –

1 upvote. 2 upvotes. 30+ upvotes. Omg!! 

How did this even happen for a newbie like me!!?

The hunger for upvotes kept growing. I started writing an answer on Jainism daily. Soon, people started commenting positively and following me. Then I realized what I have learned about Jainism is not so basic and this knowledge should be shared with others.

Not to brag, but I became the top writer in the category “Jainism” many times. 

Quora has made me realize my true potential as a Jain writer. 

. . .

The first Jain YouTube channel 

As I wrote on Quora, I felt a need for Jain videos in English for educating the young generation. An idea came up for a YouTube channel, and this channel was made:

I learned video, audio editing, and other skills and made 4–5 videos. This was my first step towards the digitalization of Jainism, unknowingly.

. . .

The first life-changing quora message

Quora and YouTube channel were going smoothly along with my office routine. In July 2017, I received a message on Quora.

After we talked, we came across a plan for a bhajan lyrics website. It sounded like a good idea and I, being a fan of bhajans, agreed to help with this.

. . .

The first initiative

After much pondering and discussions, we agreed on the name “JinSwara”. 

Jin = Jineshwar, Swara = words. 

JinSwara was the perfect name for our new idea.

We launched the JinSwara website in August 2017. 

Soon, another idea of setting up a discussion forum came up, which is now the “JinSwara forum”. One thing led to another and more people joined us in concalls(aka classes) on zoom. 

JinSwara did not remain a bhajan lyrics website. It is now a platform for Jainism’s digitalization.

. . .

The first panchkalyanak trip

Through JinSwara, I made some good Jain friends. In 2017 December, we planned to meet in Panchkalyanak held in Udaipur. 

. . .

The first few office fights

We all have faced situations where our colleagues have mocked us for not eating non-veg, not eating onions, or not drinking alcohol. I have also faced such taunts and mocking sometimes. There is an incident that I remember perfectly. This is one of my quora answers I am sharing directly with you.

Like every other day, my Jain food is a hot topic for my office colleagues. The topic always gives them time to waste. Today the usual hot topic appeared suddenly out of nowhere. The discussion went like this:

Colleague: You should eat onions. They have so many benefits. They boost immunity.

Me: Am I not healthy without them?

Colleague: You are but it will improve your health in the long run.

Me: Oh! by this fact, the Jain community must have vanished till now. They don’t eat onions at all. They should have zero immunity.

Colleague: No! But it is good for you.

He could not give me the answer. After that, I wondered if this would have been the real case, our Jain saints eat so little once a day. They do much hard work than any of us. They must not have lived till now.

. . .

The first mentor

I can gladly say that during working for JinSwara, I made a friend who mentored me and inspired me to do more and more in the field of Jainism. 

After his motivation, I stopped eating after sunset. I also stopped eating carrots and other root vegetables. He still inspires me daily.

. . .

The first translation work

Around the year 2019, I got my first translation job. It was volunteer work, but I learned a lot, and it is still on their website. Since then, I have been working with other teams to translate content on Jainism.

. . .

The first Jainism course

In 2013, I tried to be a part of a distance Jainism course. But I could not complete it due to the long distance and lack of proper communication. 

Then in 2018, I got to know about Parmagam Honours. It was a fully online course that had classes on Zoom and online exams. I had this small regret in mind that I have not studied anything properly in Jainism. After joining Parmagam Honours, this regret is no more. 

. . .

The first & last life partner

As you already read about my oath, you must be questioning what happened to my marital status. I found a good Jain person and we are happily married now. 

We have already done many teerth yatras together and attended religious programs at different times.